Two Gorey Gentlemen: A Conversation With the Producers of the Edwardian Ball

The Edwardian Ball Producers: Justin Katz (Paradox Media) and Mike Gaines (Vau de Vire Society) Photo by Neil Girling @

Ordinarily, it would be shocking to hear two men enthuse over a child drowned in an icy pond.

In this case, however, the men are the producers of the Edwardian Ball: a celebration of illustrator/poet Edward Gorey and the Edwardian era he brought to gleefully ghastly life.  The “drowned child” is actually a sartorial representation of “W is for Winnie embedded in ice” from The Gashlycrumb Tinies: the alphabet Gorey illustrated with images of children dying untimely deaths.

Note: no children were harmed in the making of this Ball.

The Edwardian Ball has been a San Francisco institution for a dozen years, growing from a tiny club night to a multi-faceted event featuring music, dance, oddities, and cirque and always anchored by a theatrical adaptation of one of Gorey’s books: this year, The Iron Tonic.

Sunday, February 19th, Edwardian Ball founder Justin Katz of Paradox Media/Rosin Coven and co-presenter Mike Gaines of the Vau de Vire Society will bring The Edwardian Ball to Los Angeles for the third year.  Originally booked into The Music Box, which closed its doors abruptly due to an internal business kerfuffle, the Edwardian Ball has landed at the gorgeous Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles and the producers are ready to welcome Edwardian enthusiasts of all persuasions.

Given the producers’ challenge to mount the production at a new venue, Ms. Go Go is pleased to have snagged an interview via email with the very gracious Messrs. Katz and Gaines.

Ms. Go Go: Gentlemen, thank you for offering L.A.’s Edwardian enthusiasts and Gorey aficionados an advance chance to fan themselves with excitement over the oh-so-imminent Third Annual Edwardian Ball in Los Angeles!  What prompted the expansion to Los Angeles in the first place?

Justin Katz/Mike Gaines: Simply put, the demand for it!  We started getting calls for the event starting in about 2006, when enough people were traveling up from LA to want this in their hometown as well.

MGG: Why do you think the Edwardian era and Edward Gorey continue to hold such appeal in this oh-so-modern day and age?

"W is for Winnie embedded in ice" (Photo by dav1d)

JK/MG: I appreciate the opportunity to make the distinction between the Edwards, as they hold a very different place but co-mingled place in the culture of the event.  Edward Gorey’s work brings a whimsical narrative to costume and character – absurdity, talking insects, children meeting ill-timed fates, dark humor.  King Edward’s era, in contrast, brings an elegance, decadence, and worldliness, as did the decade of his rule.  Put it all together and you have a wonderfully broad canvas in which everyone creates their own reality.

MGG: Do you think interest in the Edwardian era has increased since Rosin Coven and Vau de Vire Society have been producing the Edwardian Ball? Or do you think the Edwardian Ball has provided an outlet for Edwardian enthusiasts to explore their submerged and simmering passion for the era…and Gorey?

JK/MG: I think nostalgia for an elegant past, or for an imagined version of that past, is increasing as modern times become more challenging, fractured, and  chaotic. People yearn for an environment that is civil and peaceful, yet exciting, where people are at their best, and on best behavior.  That being said, I think our event has boosted the usage of the term “Edwardian” in a certain sense.  I think our reach is farther than we even know!

Vau de Vire Society in Edward Gorey's "The Iron Tonic" - Edwardian Ball, SF 2012

MGG: It’s tres unusual for an extravaganza of this type to feature a literary component such as the yearly dramatic adaptation of one of Gorey’s literary offerings.  How do you approach the material?  And can you talk a little about why and how Gorey has been an inspiration?

JK/MG: Gorey’s work is intriguing and inviting. He shows you nothing, but implies everything.  This is a great perspective to start with, for dramatic and stage interpretation.  I love that Gorey’s work is at the heart of our event.  In that sense it keeps it from being a period-recreation event, and thus open to more interpretation and creativity.  He is dark but hilarious, he illustrates the energy of life by nearly removing it from his work, leaving it up to the reader to surmise why.

MGG: Can the two of you talk about your respective backgrounds, how the partnership came about, and what each producing entity brings to the event?

JK/MG: My [Katz’s] background is in live music and event production. As the bassist and a founding member of Rosin Coven, my role in the band and production has grown over time along with this event.  I don’t recall exactly how it happened, but our group invited Vau de Vire to take over the staging and dramatic presentation of the annual Gorey story in our fifth year, 2005, our last year at the Cat Club.  It’s been a delightful and runaway partnership since then.

MGG: The Edwardian Ball has grown from an intime lounge event with slides shown of Gorey’s work to — in San Francisco — a weekend-long extravaganza with multiple events.   Despite the curveballs thrown at you by L.A. venues (!), do you foresee expanding the Los Angeles event in the same fashion?

JK/MG: We’ll see how it goes with this year, the biggest curveball to date.  But I don’t see why not.

MGG: In addition to the Edwardian Ball extravaganza, do you produce other events during the year in San Francisco (and, hint, hint) Los Angeles?

Vau de Vire gets Gorey at the Edwardian Ball 2011

JK/MG: As well as creating commissioned circus/variety shows for a range of high profile clients/events, the Vau de Vire Society produces festival environments and hosts live-performance stages at music festivals far and wide.

MGG: What can Edwardian Ball attendees look forward to in terms of liquid refreshment?

JK/MG: We are very fortunate to have St. George Spirits, creators of St. George Absinthe Verte, as partners in this year’s Edwardian Ball events. We will be featuring several absinthe cocktails in addition to traditional serving – my favorite is “The Root of All Evil”, absinthe and root beer.  It’s delicious!

Thank you, Justin and Mike, and cheers!

Tickets for The Edwardian Ball can be purchased online at the link below:

The Edwardian Ball Los Angeles – Friday February 19th at The Belasco Theater, 1050 S. Hill Street, Los Angeles 

Or in person at:

7414 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 655-0105
Hours: 1-8pm every day
$1/ticket fee

Edwardian Ball recommended Costume Resources in L.A.:

Ready?  U Know U Want 2 Go Go…. 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. mpfinnegan says:

    OH, Ms Go-Go. You know everything there is to do.

  2. This is a PARTICULARLY Go Go-worthy event, Ms. Finnegan! More details to follow!

  3. Beth O. says:

    Simply riveting Ms. GG . Educated and entertained, I am a better person for reading your column. I vow to attend.

  4. phamtazmic says:

    Excellent work in scoring an interview. My dispatch from the LA ball:

    1. @ phamtazmic – D is for Delightful Dispatch and F is for Fun Had By All! Not to mention A for Amazing Armada Hat!

      Enjoy Go Go’ers!

      Excellent work in scoring an interview. My dispatch from the LA ball:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s